The Devil at the Door: or the editor in other words

Sandhya Rao, Senior Editor, Tulika Publishers
from a talk at Through the Looking Glass: A workshop on writing, illustrating and editing children's literature — conducted by Chatterbox - The Magazine for Smart Kids, and British Council, in Chennai, August 2003

For many years, while I worked at a pretty lowly level in the Indian Express chain of newspapers, the one thing that always drew a sharp reaction was mention of my designation. “So, what do you do?” Barely audibly the reply, “I’m a sub-editor at the Indian Express.”  “SUB-editor!” the response, loud and clear. When this happened many times, I realized that most people thought the sub-editor came next only to The Editor! No wonder they sounded impressed!

          Today, when I have become an editor, if not The Editor, in a children’s books company, and when I tell people that we produce children’s books, the most common response is silence, sometimes followed by, “Oh, a magazine, like Chandamama?”
          I suppose what this means is that people now know that the production of children’s magazines requires human intervention, but books? You write a book, it is published. What else could it be?

          But you don’t let matters rest, you insist on explaining that no, these are not textbooks. And then comes the final cut: “Oh, moral stories!” Well, you could jump up and down and tear your hair in frustration, but that would only give children’s books a bad reputation and that’s worse than no reputation. Of course, this is the worst case scenario. Sadly, though, in matters relating to reading materials for children, the worst case is the most case as far as the general public is concerned. 

          As for many of those who write and draw for children, an editor stands irritatingly between them and the world. Editors are the devils at the door.

          Nobody’s even talking about the consumer, the child. Because the ones who control these consumers are the ones who monitor the wallet: what to buy, why to buy, when to buy, if to buy. And counsel, typically, not to buy. It happens ever so often: a child at a book fair, holding tight to a book, screaming he or she wants it, wants it. The parent drags the child away. Occasionally, the parent takes a look at the book and then gives the child any number of reasons why it is just not worth it. Often, the clinching argument for the parent is the price. If all this fails, the parent diverts the child’s attention to an information book, “at least it’s useful”, then lets fly one last missile: “You have so many textbooks to read, look at those first!” and physically removes the child from the scene. That, as far as the parent is concerned, is that. 

          It’s true, it happens all the time.

          Books are definitely at a low premium in India. People complain that children are watching too much television, they are not reading. But it seems this is more because they themselves want to watch television at the very moment their children are. Besides, not many of these complainants themselves read anything other than the occasional magazine. Yes, literacy is big in India. But we’re not talking reading bus numbers and signing your name. We’re talking literature: books in which we find ourselves, books that stay with us all our lives, the classics, the eternal favourites: The Little Prince, Swami and Friends, The Snow Goose…. Books that evoke creative responses in the reader. Even the simplest picture book by the great ones — Maurice Sendak, Raymond Briggs, Micky Patel, John Burningham, Pulak Biswas, Helen Oxenbury, the Ahlbergs, Sybil Wettasinghe, Mitsumaso Anno — shape the sort of adult we grow up to become. 

          In a 1999 interview, Zimbabwean writer Chiedza Musengezi put the issue in perspective. She bemoaned the fact that parents didn’t encourage their children to read, and to read good books. She said they would spend priceless dollars on fluffy, flouncy frocks and fancy suits for their children, but will stint on buying books. “Books put words at our command,” she pointed out, which makes for better citizens, more difficult to manipulate. She couldn’t have put it better.

          So, the first lesson for the potential editor is that attitudes describe and prescribe the brief well before she or he has had a chance to have a go at the job which begins right there, outside. It starts with understanding what the world is like, with knowing that before producing a book, one must also create a need for it, a taste for good reading material. The editor must know that because children and their reading are so low on peoples’ priorities, there is a glut in the market of rank bad books that should not be seen. How does it matter whether the traces of pesticide in fizzy drinks are large or small? What matters is that they are harmful either way.   

          The editor steps into the job knowing that he or she is responsible for the production of good reading material, and that by ensuring their continuous production and supply she or he will facilitate a change in taste and demand.  

          So what does an editor do? Well, an editor takes a lump of moist clay, shapes it according to its own energies, takes it in the directions in which it pushes, helps it along until the lump of clay is ready to be fired as a water pot, a vase, a votive offering… An editor takes an idea either buried or floating in a loose-leaf manuscript through various transformations until it appears shining and new as a printed book and then hands it over into the hands of the reader.

          It has been said that books lying on the shelves of libraries are incomplete and sketchy, they have no meaning on their own. They are only “references, allusions, scribbles”. Many people believe that books come alive only when there are readers. So in a sense, books have only half a life after being created by a writer, readers bring to life the other half. 

          But in the fine space between these two halves exists the full and challenging life of the editor. What happens in this space is what the editor makes happen.

          Broadly speaking, an editor tests the waters and pushes for space, prepares the content, produces the material, and works on strategies to reach the reader. In other words, the editor, in India at any rate, and certainly in the smaller businesses, functions at several levels simultaneously, shifting gears continuously in the effort to negotiate a space for children’s books.

          Most people have a distinctly patronizing attitude to children. It’s not surprising, then, that most people carry this attitude over to children’s books. Therefore, one hat the editor wears proclaims: How to win friends and patronage. The first step is to take a good, hard look at what’s in the market. Then take a good, hard look at what you and your company stand for. What is your profile? What are you looking for in children’s books? What are the standards you wish to set? Who are the kind of authors and illustrators you wish to have in your list? What are the kinds of titles you wish to create? Focusing on strengths is the key.

          But you never forget the hat you’re wearing. So, you also speak about quality children’s books at different fora so that you play your part in helping to create a taste, a demand. In Tulika, we regularly have students from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, and the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore, interning with us. They work for anything between one month to six on conceptualizing, visualizing, designing, producing — depending upon the needs of each project. Others too have apprenticed, either for the experience or out of interest. Other things being equal, they end up with published books to their names, something we are proud of. It is definitely a bonus to have young people, with new and fresh ideas, blowing into our lives. Dialogue is the staple diet of an editor. Interestingly, our experience has been that there seems to be greater interest in children’s books among young people: in 2003, three students of the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, did their dissertations on aspects of children’s literature!

          Before we get into other aspects of an editor’s multilayered job, a brief note on contracts. When a work is accepted for publication, one of the first things is to put together a contract. This is an agreement between the Author / Illustrator and the Publisher setting down terms and conditions: that the work is original, that a certain royalty payment will be made, how the manuscript or art work is to be presented, the time frame and so on. If the author and illustrator are one person, there is one contract; if the author and illustrator are two different persons, the publishers prepares separate contracts for each one. Once the terms are found to be agreeable to both sides, the contract is signed. 

          It goes without saying that without written down content, there is nothing to read. So the editor has to set about finding content. Content can be sourced from outside or generated from within the publishing house. It may be solicited or unsolicited. Sometimes, unsolicited material is easier to deal with. If the idea / material fits in with the profile of the company, if it appeals to the editorial team, then it’s easy to say yes, we’ll do this book. If it doesn’t, then it’s not too difficult to deal with. But when a book or project has been specifically commissioned by the editor / publishing house, and when it does not meet the expectations and when — worse — it shows no signs of ever meeting expectations, then the editor has to make the difficult decision to rescind. Explanations have to be made, the contract has to be cancelled. It’s not a pleasant business but there is no other choice because you cannot compromise on the book, half-measures will not do. Better then to accept that a mistake has been made and end that relationship. Saying no is the most difficult thing to do but an editor has to say it, gently. 

          Because editors work constantly with words and ideas and ways of seeing, many of them eventually evolve into writers, good writers, themselves. But a publishing house needs more than editors who become writers. It needs many good writers. Sometimes editors have to dig and dig for writers. Finding good writers, finding good illustrators, designers, ideas people, printers…. all this falls within the purview of the editor’s job. 

          But where do ideas come from? Editors have this question thrown at them all the time. Well, ideas come from everywhere: a film, a newspaper clipping, a conversation, an experience, imagination, a scent, a memory…. Specifically, again, ideas can be generated from within the publishing house and many more from without. The thing, however, is to always find the right person for the right idea… and vice versa… The editor’s nose and eyes and ears have to work extra time.  

          There is a school of thought that you cannot give someone an idea and say ‘write’. Maybe. But that idea can spark off a train of thought and it is possible to work at writing so that your words work out the idea…. With regular doses of assessment by the editorial team / editor. 

          Okay, so now we have a manuscript. After it has been accepted and a date has been set for its publication, another careful reading is done for consistency of detail and style, for missing information, and so on. Then it has to be copy-edited for spelling, punctuations, consistency and so on.

          Publishing houses generally follow what is called a house style. These are basically editorial guidelines such as whether to use single quotes or double quotes, to go for the z spelling or the s, what kind of indents to use for paragraphs, and so on. Of course, the nature of the book may also dictate the style, and these vary from company to company, although there are some publishing conventions that are practiced all over the world. 

          With children’s books, there are usually illustrations, and very often, pictures have to be commissioned after the text. Finding the right illustrator becomes the next task, after a discussion with the writer on what kind of illustrations would be most appropriate. Of course, this is subject to change depending upon many things, including the illustrator’s inputs as well as decisions on size of the book, format, colour, purpose and so on. 

          Illustrators have to be given clear instructions, and we tend to work with them very closely. Often ideas and styles evolve as we go along. The pictures for the first four titles in our series Under the Banyan were done by a student of NID, Mugdha Shah, as part of a project.. These were folktales from different regions of India. One day we had the bright idea that the illustrations should also be linked to an art style typical of the region from where the story was taken. Mugdha had to do a lot of research into art forms. But her sun-princess in the very first book, Eyes on the Peacock's Tail, turned out to be way too much of a stereotypical princess to suit the contemporary feel of Vayu Naidu's (the author's) tone. Clearly there was a lot more work to be done.

          Other examples of editorial intervention making a difference abound. For instance, who doesn’t know Eric Carle’s work? His The Very Hungry Caterpillar must be among the best known children’s books in the world. Yet, did you know that it was originally going to be called A Week with Willi Worm? When Eric Carle showed it to the editor, (Ann Beneduce) she suggested making the worm a caterpillar, even though when he showed it to her, it was in dummy form, hole in the center and all! When he first showed her 1,2,3 to the Zoo (1968), a conventional counting book, Ann looked it over and said, “There are many children’s counting books. We have to give this something extra to take it out of the ordinary. You can do it!” This something extra stayed with Eric Carle in all his work.     

          There is very little critical literature about children’s literature or magazines. Much of it learned from other cultures and experiences. Much of it is gut feeling. And much of it is good advice well received. For instance, I would never presume to know anything about children. Because, for one thing, each child is an individual. And in India, which boasts a plethora of cultures, languages, experiences, expectations, each child is even more individualistic. So when, Mahasweta Devi says to us that she respects a child just the way she respects an adult, that’s one to be absorbed into our editorial consciousness. When Libby Hathorn advises us never to test our stories with children, they’ll tear your confidence to shreds, that’s another useful insight to ingest. For the rest of it, we do what we believe in. We know that if we want to create a generation or generations of good, discerning readers who will grow into good literature in adulthood, we need to give them good literature in childhood. Literature is a continuing process: It’s not as if children’s books end at age 16 and literature begins at age 17. 

          So that’s the major test: does the writing have that something extra? Do the pictures and words create something special?

          One question I’d like to raise here, stop for a while to discuss, is the question of children writing. We get many parents calling to tell us how well their children write and would we publish. So far we have resisted. But what do you think? And what would the considerations be, if you were editors? . . .

          I remember that when we were kids, one of the serious games we played was to put together a magazine. In full colour, original artworks. Of course, the artists always hogged the limelight, writers didn’t even make a ripple, though I suspect the reason was mostly the handwriting. And anyway, what got noticed was how bad your handwriting was with respect to someone else, not what you had written! Isn’t that something all children do? These days especially, we encourage children to write and illustrate their own stories, we encourage them to tell because we recognize the potential of stories to help them deal with life. 

          In this context, Katherine Paterson’s comment is pertinent. “… stories will not have any power if they are never heard or read. Which brings me to a concern about education. Why, in places of ‘higher learning’ is the reading of fiction considered some kind of aberration?” She quotes from an issue of Psychology Today which told about a student of Princeton University who finally  transferred. He felt he was socially ostracized at Princeton because in his free time he would read novels. 

          How do you recognize a potentially good writer, a good book. What is that little extra we are looking for? This comes with experience, it is part instinctive, but it is also learned by looking at books. It comes with reading and with reading the best writers. Today, I can look back to my childhood reading and recognize what I enjoyed and why, and what stays. There are books I can go back to, but there are others to which I cannot. Yet, an editor worth her salt has to understand the place of all books in  a child’s life, while at the same time ensuring that she is contributing to the body of work that qualifies as literature.

          Sidney Sheldon may be a good read, or John Grisham, but they’re not literature. These belong to the realm of popular fiction. That has great value, and we need it. So too with children’s literature, we need the popular as much as we need the classic. If the two can meet, nothing like it. 

Producing the material: the nuts and bolts

Going back to the role of the editor in making the writing and reading experience possible: I’d say, the editor is the rose between two thorns, thank you Jinnah. Rather than the Devil at the Door.

          Ideally, and in many big houses in the west, publishing houses have teams of editors, yes even children’s books publishers do. There are commissioning editors, sorting editors, reading editors, copy editors, picture editors, art editors, layout editors, and so on. Each one is seen to have a special skill. Well-known children's editor Charlotte Zolotow used to be an editor at Harper & Row. “I did just about everything, including some typing and answering the telephone. It was also part of my job to meet writers and artists at the elevator and screen the new ones who came wanting to show their work.” Later she began to write flap copy. Then she got manuscripts to read. Cleaning up the manuscript is done by one kind of editor, another copy-edits or looks to sort out spellings, punctuations, grammar and so on. 

          Charlotte Zolotow (quoted in Ways of Telling, Conversations on the Art of the Picture Book by Leonard S. Marcus) also shares an important insight in this direction. She had started to work in Harper & Row with Ursula Nordstrom, a well-known editor who had worked with such big names as Tomi Ungerer and Eric Carle and who blooded other editors such as Susan Hirschman of Macmillan.

Charlotte had an idea for a book about the cycle of daily life in the park near her home. “It was the continuous cycle that seized me, the fact that each time a new group came along it completely changed the park’s personality. Margaret Wise Brown (a well-known writer) was, of course, still alive and writing new books every year. I adored her work, and so I wrote a long  memo about the park to Ursula, suggesting that it would make an ideal subject for Margaret Wise Brown. … when she’d read it she came over to me and, sounded sort of irritated, said, “I don’t know what you mean. What do you mean by this?” So I wrote down more of my observations and gave my memo back to Ursula, still thinking of it as a good idea for Margaret. This time when Ursula came over to me, her tone of voice had completely changed. She said, “Congratulations, you’ve just written your first children’s book!” Then she went on, “You must never, ever tell a writer what you think would make a wonderful book. The idea has to come from the writer. What you have here is your book, not Margaret’s.” So in that one explanation, Ursula taught me about being an editor and about being a writer. It was a tremendous piece of education that has lasted for the rest of my life.”

          Here in India, the editor generally plays many parts, right from replying to an enquiry about manuscripts in which case you are a dispatch editor and you say the editors will look at the mss and get back, not revealing that you play that part too. Then when the manuscript is in hand and is being edited, you don that role…. Shakespeare’s comment could have been written with editors in mind. When you write to an impatient author that the pages are being laid out, you don’t tell him or her that you’re doing that too….!

          After you have gone through the copy, and you’ve raised questions with the author and had replies, got copyright permission for quotations longer than the stipulated permissible and so on, proofs have to be sent off. Finally then the book has to be readied for press, with instructions given to the printer on the number to be printed, on what kind of paper, in how many languages, whether plates will change…. Etc etc….

           With experience, and goof-ups, one picks up the technical aspects of publishing. But there are some other larger questions that need more serious consideration. We don’t have answers, only examples of things that we look out for when editing a book. Each one has to work out its own ‘traps’.

(Just the bare outline of points discussed have been retained here; not the full discussion...):

1.    The cultural question: Ekki Dokki has two sisters — one has one hair, one has two. There was a comment in the UK about it being offensive to children who have lost hair due to cancer. But in India, baldness need not have these connotations — shaving the head as an offering in a temple is common.

2.    Stereotyping: Sometimes you miss important clues. We once received a story, very visual and very well written, evocative… but with a very central issue concerning attitude to gender, very pat, very obvious, which we missed completely. When we sent it to a well-known artist to illustrate, at first she too said yes. Then she wrote back saying no, she couldn’t possibly be part of a project that very clearly endorsed stereotypes…. The writer was not willing to change and we didn't, couldn't possibly,  do the book. 

3.   Cultural inconsistencies: Often stories are inconsistent with the immediate environment, culture, region. In India, black-haired, black-eyed children habitually write stories peopled with blonde haired, blue-eyed ones! What does one do with sounds? Are there 'universal sounds' — for the way bells ring, for instance?

4.    Absence of location: Writing in a vacuum, typically, “Once there was a man…..”  Speaking of realism, Katherine Paterson says, “Nothing becomes dated more quickly than certain contemporary fiction, which then of course seems most unrealistic to the young reader. Anything, as you know, that takes place before a child’s own immediate memory seems to the child ancient and exotic. My own children have the perfect phrase to describe this phenomenon. “Back when you were alive, Mom…” Some writers try to avoid this dating process, so that when you read their books you are struck by the lack of anchors to the real world. There is no date, no description of clothing or current events, no slang….”

5.    Leads on to plain Bad writing: If you have read enough good writing, you recognize bad writing… Benjamin Zephaniah has a poem by Mahmood Jamal that you might enjoy: 

There is punk poetry and junk poetry

There is monk poetry and drunk poetry

There is sad poetry and mad poetry

But above all there is good poetry

And bad poetry.

But it’s amazing how much bad writing passes muster. So, watch out! Especially for clichés and mixed metaphors and Indianisms where they don’t work… Integrity is important.

6.    Sounding like someone else, imitative: You get the feeling you’ve read this before somewhere…. 

7.    Connotations: The MC-PC debate — political correctness, about not offending, basically. But it can differ from culture to culture. Farrukh Dhondy says: "India is the most multicultural region in the world, most naturally multicultural anyway. As an idea, multiculturalism is transnational and it has nothing essential to do with race. Its first law is that cultures clash. Its second law is that cultures may clash in one and the same person and can do so with spectacular literary results." 

8.   Taboos in children’s books. Death, for instance. Handled sensitively, sensibly, nothing needs to be taboo. Astrid Lindgren’s famous The Brothers Lionheart starts with the death, a horrifying death by fire, of a young boy. The entire story happens in a world after death, as a matter of fact, and is in fact the favourite of many young people even today. Our folktales and our epics are full of these stories. It is how we understand and how we represent… sensitively and sensibly.  It’s for each publishing house to decide. 

9.    Discrepancies: Even if the logic is not so important to the story, even if it is minor, the editor has to be alert to any possible discrepancies. 

10.    Visual consistency: For instance, we had a picture of a bull when the subject was a buffalo, or pyjama instead of dhoti… 
Yet, as an editor, if you feel convinced about something, it is your duty to fight for it… If only authors knew, maybe they would think more kindly of their editors….! The editor is not always right, but then nobody, not even the writer is always right. That editor has best discharged her duty when she engages actively and positively with all the players: the writer, the illustrator and the publishing company.

          There are times, though, when a text may be completely rewritten. I’d like to quote from Diana Athill about a book by ‘lazy old Sir Whatsit’ whose manuscript was interesting but unreadable. Andre Deutsch needed desperately at the time to buff up its nonfiction list. So Diana edited it herself. “I doubt if there was a sentence – certainly there was not a paragraph – that I did not alter and often have to retype, sending it chapter by chapter to the author for his approval which – although he was naturally very grouchy – he always gave. I enjoyed the work. It was like removing layers of crumpled brown paper from an awkwardly shaped parcel, and revealing the attractive present which it contained (a good deal more satisfying than the minor tinkering involved when editing a competent writer).” It was reviewed in TLS as being “scholarly and full of fascinating detail, and beautifully written in the bargain. The author promptly sent me a clipping of this review, pinned to a short note. ‘How nice of him,’ I thought, ‘he’s going to say thank you!’ What he said in fact was: ‘You will observe the comment about the writing which confirms what I have thought all along, that none of that fuss about it was necessary.’ When I had stopped laughing I accepted the message: an editor must never expect thanks (sometimes they come, but they must always be seen as a bonus). We must always remember that we are only midwives — if we want praise for progeny we must give birth to our own.’

          I will only say this: we have had our share of what’s all this fuss about….. and this is a lesson for keeps!

          Possibly the most important feature of an editor’s job is to help the writer find his or her voice. Children’s books in India in particular, like the children, are often voiceless, unheard, unknown….. 

          Listening does an editor make. You have to watch out for all the other signs as well. Simply having told a child stories at bedtime does not a writer make, as we all know. Less does it make a great book. Editors themselves have to have a highly developed critical faculty, which, no matter what the weight or reach of the writer or illustrator, sometimes even colleagues, has to stand up and raise the issues concerned. For this it is important to be passionate about your work, but dispassionate in its execution. 

          Editors also have to be good with their PR, patient while they coax the writer and even more patient with illustrators, fall all over themselves doing the research on their behalf…. so we get what we want in terms of what is good for the book and good for the reader….

          Just a word about translating: because in India, most of us are translating all the time, in our minds if nowhere else. And when you are doing translations, it’s a challenge. Something that works so easily in one language, just won’t in another. A simple example: Eecha Poocha. Eecha means fly in Malayalam, Poocha is cat. Sounds good, we thought, for the title of a story about these two friends: Eecha Poocha (and remember, titles have to work). It took so long to convince the Malayalam translator because, she said, in Malayalam it doesn’t work, it has to be Eecheyum Poocheyum. I suspect she is still not convinced!

          Anthea Bell, famous for her Asterix translations with Derek Hockeridge, says: "It’s a low profile profession. If you’ve done your job properly as a translator then readers will not notice that the words on the page are actually your words. You interpret your author in much the same way as an author interprets a play, but with less leeway for freedom of interpretation because your duty is to the author and not your own ego."

          Anybody who has tried her hand at translating into Tamil will understand…. But can we have a sangam-style literary language if we want to get children interested in reading? We also know that there are as many ways of using language possibly as there are people. Yes, there are certain conventions. But the tone and register and style, these depend upon the translator. 

          Then again, the translations in different languages of the same text have to have some consistency amongst themselves too… When it comes to bilingual texts, it’s an even tougher job. Since the texts in both languages are on the same page, they have to be almost exactly similarly expressed. The purpose is to teach language in the process of having fun reading.

          When all is said and edited and ready, the book has to be sent to press with all the work that that involves. The time spent waiting for the book to arrive from the press is the most anxious.  

          When these ideas and ideas of identity and voice are reflected in the books, that makes for the possibility of a good book, I suppose. An editor’s job reasonably done.

Reach the Reader

Can the editor sit back after feverishly and fearfully checking out the advance copies for mistakes? No way. Now the book has to be sent out, reviewed, talked about, reached to the distributor, made available…..  

          Chatterbox after several trial and error efforts, have now pitched on Direct marketing as their technique. They don’t know yet if this is the answer they’re looking for, but they can only try. The newspaper supplements are luckier. They don’t have to bother, the supplement will keep happening so long as the editor’s ears are not poisoned against it by the marketing or advertising departments. Karadi Tales believes in brand positioning, so they’ve been going all out with this single brand and making it available everywhere.  

          But for any of this to reach a large audience, the media has to get into the act, we need reviews. Not patronizing comments on how lovely the pictures are and how sweet the stories are, and then proceeding to divulge the entire plot, with the final barb: too expensive. We need discerning reviews by discerning reviewers. In the absence of a full-fledged marketing team (a luxury in a small publishing house), editors have to sometimes work harder than they perhaps care to on this! Also talk to booksellers, bookshops and beg for shop space….  make sure that royalties are paid on time, reprints are organized if necessary, book launches are organized, and authors and illustrators are kept in touch with for more ideas, more books. The seasons change and the cycle continues. 

Costing Books

There’s one last thing I’d like to say before winding up. Related to the cost factor. How are books priced? Small publishing houses that do print runs of say 2000-3000, per unit cost is higher because of paper, printing, royalties to authors and illustrators, and a hefty anything between 40 per cent to 75 per cent to distributors. Sometimes you may make something as little as nothing, or even go out of pocket. You then work out ways to offset this. But this is bad business, because we are working in publishing companies that are businesses, not social service organizations. So, it is part of the editors’ job too to ensure that costs are worked out effectively to run the business, produce high quality books, and have happy consumers. For which the consumer often has to be made to understand that buying a book is not like buying a pizza and most often costs less than a pizza.  

          At the same time don’t let anybody browbeat you into thinking that only a shoddy 8-rupee book is worth it for children. There’s room for lots of books and different kinds of books. See where you fit in and what are the requirements in that area.

Aditi (present here and also a writer-editor) and I once had a wonderful holiday in Ooty, with her aunt and uncle, Ratna Mashi and Methai. He always stayed under the quilt and on one occasion stepped outdoors for a bit to sing songs under the stars. He always referred to us as comma and full-stop. As far as he was concerned, that’s what we did for work, inserted commas and full-stops! I’d like to think there will be no full-stops for children’s books in India, that they will go full throttle ahead!